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No Return—Live XXX Award winner

No Return
Live XXX
by Max Elias at 09 November 2020, 9:22 AM

Ok, so right off the bat I need to say something. I love NO RETURN; I think they are one of the best DEATH/THRASH METAL bands out there. So, I heard they had a new album and I got really excited; and then I found out it was a live album, which was a little disappointing. I want them to be putting out new music (luckily they’re working on that too), but for people that maybe haven’t heard NO RETURN or know the name, this is an excellent album to check out, because it’s a chronologically organized set that goes through their entire career in 14 songs.

And it’s a cool thing for longtime fans as well, to be able to trace the developments and added nuance in their sound through the years, as well as to be blown away by the technical and musical brilliance that has always been there. The album starts with “Vision of Decadence” (“Mutuants’ March” is just the intro that many albums, live or not, feature), a frenetic smashing attack of a song replete with dancing pedal-tone riffs and hammering drums. Even the short guitar lead is equally melodic as it is impressive. When the album that this song is on came out it was not recorded as crisply as LIVE XXX is, so some of the band’s compositional skill might have been lost, but now it is all on full display.

The album continues on this way for a few songs (“Memories”, “Civil War”, and “Fanatic Mind”), resurrecting the band’s earliest sound, which though still well thought-out and melodic is also slightly heavier and darker than their later work would be. Then, the album moves into the 21st century with “Disillusion”, and the riffs become a little bit less brutal, and more numerous. The songs start going through more sections as well; the breakdowns get longer and so do the guitar solos. Judging by the shift in guitar tone during the solo section, “Disillusion” features two guitarists trading solos, which is new so far. The songs (post-“Disillusion”) also start to get longer. “Disease” features a slower pre-solo section that incorporates audience participation, which is something that studio albums aren’t able to do as organically. Despite the fact that the album is still at the early 2000s mark in the band’s career, these songs sound modern, relevant, and every bit as impressive as music being released by contemporary DEATH/THRASH METAL bands, which just proves how ahead of the curve NO RETURN were and have stayed.

Standout tracks in terms of uniqueness (not quality, as everything here is excellent and well-chosen to represent the band’s long career) include “News Item”, which has a slower, mournful lead as an intro, before launching brazenly into a jumpy, twisty riff soon followed by other riffs that show off a new style of writing; less concerned with being the absolute most brutal thing ever recorded and more focused on interesting, varied melodic ideas that accent the bombastic rhythms and percussion wonderfully. The diverse riffing explores tremolo-picked ideas, pedal-tone ideas, and arpeggiated riffs, all woven into a coherent tapestry of mindbending extreme metal.  “Inquisitive Hegemony” follows this pattern, resting on a bevy of higher-pitched and more traditionally melodic ideas more typical of Finnish MELODIC DEATH METAL like MORS PRINCIPIUM EST or KALMAH, but still with their classic NO RETURN edge, helped along by the impassioned growls of Mick Caesare. Another standout song is (among my favorites of theirs even before it was included on this album) “Paint Your World”. From the intro riff which is so addictively catchy, it’s obvious that this song will be incredible. And like “News Item” before it, it has more phases than you would expect for a 5 and a half minute song; it goes through crushing heaviness before receding into a more laid-back middle section with soaring guitar melodies, and continually reprising the intro riff, hooking the listener back in at every opportunity.

It seems like every song on this album is more evolved than the last—at the very least, every song brings something different to the table; “Stronger Than Ever” sounds completely different than any other songs here but is amazing, just as the first few tracks have a definitely different style from the band’s beginnings. This is an album that anyone has to check out regardless of how familiar they are with NO RETURN; even someone like me who loves the band gets a different experience listening to this chronologically organized record that I would not have had before. The music on here is light years ahead of most other similar bands’ stuff, and it is a tragedy to me that this band is not more well known.

Songwriting: 10
Musicianship: 10
Memorability: 10
Production: 10

5 Star Rating

Tracklist:
  1. Mutants’ March
  2. Vision of Decadence
  3. Memories
  4. Civil War
  5. Fanatic Mind
  6. Disillusion
  7. Disease
  8. Don’t Judge Me
  9. News Item
  10. Stronger Than Fear
  11. Submission Fails
  12. Paint Your World
  13. The Crimson Rider
  14. Despise Your Heroes
Lineup:
Alain Clement – Guitar
Mick Caesare – Vocals
David Barbosa – Bass
Geoffroy Lebon – Guitar
Joёl Barbosa – Drums
Record Label: Mighty Music
     


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Edited 01 December 2022
 

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